The last few days of the journey through South America were spent in Buenos Aires. What a treat this was and a perfect way to end the trip!
Being the largest city in the country, Buenos Aires is the capital city. It is situated on the southeastern coast of Argentina with a current population of over 12 million people (including the entire metropolitan area). It has become a multicultural city with an extremely diverse community. Over the years there has been immigration mostly from Europe but also, from all over the world. The city is known for its European architecture and was recently ranked 91st in the world for its quality of life!
I’ve mentioned before in previous articles that I like to understand the meaning of a location’s name. Buenos Aires was named by Spanish sailors thanking the Virgin Mary for the blessing of their safe arrival, “Santa Maria de Los Buenos Aires” which translates to “Virgin Mary of the Fair Winds”.
As with many locations, the discovery was accidental and yet was conquered due to its strategic location for maritime trade. This was the case with Buenos Aires.
Having been settled a couple of times and then abandoned, the final settlement which we see today was founded in 1580 by Juan de Garay. The earlier attempts at settlement were abandoned due to battles with the indigenous people fighting for their land.
THE WAR OF INDEPENDENCE:
Formal Independence from Spain was finally achieved in 1816. I say “finally” because the war started in the early 1800s and included the May Revolution which was discussed in my previous article about Montevideo. Both having common goals, the Montevidians and the people of Buenos Aires worked independently to achieve independence but at times came to the aid of each other.
THE 19th AND 20th CENTURIES:
This time in history ushered in political unrest and an epidemic of tuberculous and other diseases due to poor sanitary conditions. Buenos Aires was experiencing growing pains.
Having experienced the growth-related issues all locations suffer, Buenos Aires was looking at a stable future. As an established democracy, the 1990s saw an economic upturn, specifically in the construction and financial sectors.
BUENOS AIRES TODAY:
Buenos Aires has 48 neighborhoods referred to as barrios. In my next article, I will discuss three of those neighborhoods: Recoleta, La Boca, and Microcentro.
The Spanish spoken in Buenos Aires comes across as somewhat of a different dialect because of the accent. It is assumed the difference in pronunciations comes from the influence of Italian traders and other European immigrants from long ago.
MY FIRST DAY:
My first day in Buenos Aires was a fabulous adventure; one unlike I had ever done before! Having booked a trip to an estancia, a working gaucho ranch, I had no idea what I was in for. Let me tell you it was one of the best travel adventures of my life. About 45 minutes outside of Buenos Aires, I arrived at Santa Susana Estancia. The ranch was lush green and expansive. The sky was sunny, the temperature perfect- I knew that it was going to be a great day!
Often compared to the American Cowboy, a Gaucho works on the estancia; similar to a cow hand. The Spaniards originally introduced cattle to Argentina and the Gauchos were originally like traveling horsemen skilled in cattle herding. They were known to be brave and deeply established themselves in South American folklore. In today’s time, the gauchos work the cattle but also, perform at estancias. These “performances” are a demonstration of the games that were played to hone the skills a Gaucho needed when out on the plains, pampas.
Before the “games” began, there was a staged stampede that was awesome giving you a birds-ey view of the power behind these magnificent horses.
There are a number of these games, and I had the opportunity to witness a few:
- La Sortija: The Gaucho gallops, with a lance in hand, to impale a small ring that hangs from a thin rope. If he captures the ring, he then hands it to a woman in the audience. (I believe the “woman in the audience thing” is a modern-day theatrical performance!)
- Recado: The Gaucho gallops across the pampa while he took apart his recado (a multi-layered saddle), dropping the pieces as he went. Then, he had to go back, grab up the pieces and reassemble his saddle. This is all done while he is riding at full speed.
- Crowding: Two men would spur each other’s horse to shove against each other. The object was to drive his opponent to a particular place and crowd the other man off his horse. When one man “crowded” the other off his horse, he was declared the winner.
- Jumping the Bar. A bar is placed above a corral gate with just enough headroom for a horse to pass under. Galloping at full speed to the bar he then would jump over the bar and land back in the saddle. Pretty amazing to watch!
- Cinchada. In an equestrian tug-of-war, tail to tail; a rope is tied to the Gauchos’ saddles. This strengthened the mount of the Gaucho.
OMG! The food! Grilled meats and veggies were galore! Traditional local side dishes and drinks of practically anything you wanted! A Fantastic version of Flan was served for dessert.
And the day just kept getting better! After lunch had been served, we were entertained by tango dancers! WOW!
The Tango goes back to the 1880s. It originated along the Río de la Plata, which makes up the natural border of Argentina, and Uruguay. At the time, it was performed in brothels and bars located in and near the ports. As this entertaining dance became more and more popular, it quickly spread to the rest of the world. Today, there are many styles and variations of the tango based on region and the preference of the dancers. The dance is typically performed by a man and woman; historically, each with their own “goal”. The woman’s intention was as a confidence builder looking for a husband and the man’s goal was one of flirtation and expectation.
I remember when I was in Buenos Aires, there were several Tango Clubs and advertisements for Tango lessons.
RECAPPING THE DAY:
As the group arrived at Santa Susana Estancia, we were greeted by staff offering cold drinks and snacks. To fill in the time before the program began, there were many activities offered: horseback riding, stagecoach wild rides, walking and relaxing on the premises, and visiting the many buildings and the rooms that had been staged to resemble the original estancia. (And, yes, I rode a horse! It was fun but I was scared. I kept thinking if I fell off, I’d surely break a hip, and then it would be the beginning of the end! No Picture of me riding is included in this article!)
When the cowbell rang, lunch was served and the program began. Lunch, the Tango dancers, and then the Gaucho demonstration.
A perfect day all around; great weather, food, entertainment, fun, and relaxation.
I hope you enjoyed my day at the Estancia. As I said, it has been one of my favorite travel adventures; memories for a lifetime!
Until next time, friends, remember: “To Travel is to Live!”